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Ministers deploy an Imperius Curse on Englands countryside


The Government is expected to publish a new approach to how development is planned before Parliaments summer break begins next week. The publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for public consultation follows heavy criticism of earlier leaked drafts, with many people concerned how the plans will affect the Green Belt and the wider countryside.

CPRE is calling on the Government to recognise, in the NPPF, that good planning is about far more than pushing new development. Often planners do most to promote economic growth by making England an attractive place in which to live, work and invest. They do this by safeguarding and promoting beauty in town and country, addressing climate change, and making effective use of previously built on (brownfield) land. This often means saying no to the wrong development in the wrong places rather than a default yes as Ministers seem to want.

Paul Miner, Senior Planning Campaigner for CPRE, says: At present, all local authorities are hearing from the Government is build, build, build.This is like a real-life Imperius Curse from Harry Potter, which places the victim completely under the control of the person who casts the spell.Only someone with exceptional strength of will is capable of resisting it.

With the repeated exhortations from government to approve development at almost any cost, it will take a very strong local authority to resist destructive planning applications. We look to Ministers to make clear that protection of the places people love wont be overridden by their understandable desire to get the economy moving.

Paul Miner concluded: The UK has led the world in protecting the countryside for its own sake. A clear and concise planning framework is essential if communities are to get involved in planning the shape of their local areas, as we hope they will.But in cutting the number of words in planning guidance, it is essential that the Government does not reduce the protection it gives the countryside and other green spaces.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England is today (Thursday) publishing three key tests for judging the new National Planning Policy Framework.

Key tests

Putting truly sustainable development at the heart of planning: Ministers have made it clear that they want to use the planning system to deliver economic growth and new housing and so the definition of sustainable development within the NPPF has become pivotal [1]. Local communities should be empowered to insist on strong links between new development, energy efficiency and sustainable forms of transport. And it should be made clear that the presumption in favour of sustainable development allows local authorities to refuse development when it would damage the quality of the natural environment or breach environmental limits.

A presumption against building in the Green Belt and in favour of brownfield: previous government policy called for developers to look at brownfield land and derelict sites before considering greenfield and Green Belt land for development, with a presumption against building in the Green Belt. These policies have not featured in early drafts of the NPPF [1].

Intrinsic value of the countryside: the Government committed in the Coalition Agreement to protecting areas that have been designated as important. While we welcome the protection of valued landscapes we are concerned about the loss of a principle that the countryside should be protected for its own intrinsic character, beauty, heritage, wildlife and the wealth of its natural resources. Such a loss in protection would be particularly worrying as the Governments own Natural Environment White Paper has set out a vision for protecting the countryside as a whole and making it better for nature.

[1] In his Budget, George Osborne said: We will introduce a new presumption in favour of sustainable development, so that the default answer to development is ‘yes.

[2] In 1995 a national target for building at least 50% of all new homes on brownfield sites was introduced by the then Environment Minister John Gummer. Between then and 2007 117 square miles of brownfield land have been redeveloped for housing. (Source: Department for Communities and Local Government, Land Use Change Statistics, live table 226.) If this housing had been built on greenfield land instead, an area of countryside at least six times the size of Southampton (Southampton City Councils area is 19 square miles) would have been lost to housing.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) fights for a better future for the English countryside. We work locally and nationally to protect, shape and enhance a beautiful, thriving countryside for everyone to value and enjoy. Our 57,000 members are united in their love for Englands landscapes and rural communities, and stand up for the countryside, so it can continue to sustain, enchant and inspire future generations. Founded in 1926, President: Bill Bryson, Patron: Her Majesty The Queen.

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